Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Review: Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska
John Green
Young Adult
Speak/December 28, 2006

Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (Fran├žois Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. 

After. Nothing is ever the same.

Such a realistic, moving story.  I was caught up rather quickly in Miles Halter aka Pudge's world that revolved around Culver Creek Boarding School.  Miles' life, pre-Culver Creek, is dull with Miles unsure of where he fits in, or even if he fits in anywhere.  That all changes when he arrives at Culver Creek.

Boarding school is a unique experience many of us can not lay claim to. For Miles Halter being sent away from his home in Florida to start his junior year of high school is only the begin of his self-discovery.  It's a very real look at the life of a teen but these teens have no parents in their daily lives.  The lack of parents gave the story a different feel, causing the teens to looks out for each other more than usual.  Although, some readers may argue parents are not heavily prevalent in young adult stories anyway. In Looking for Alaska, the teens instead have "The Eagle" who acts as an enforcer of rules with little compassion.

I was surprised at how much humor is in this story even though the main characters of Pudge, Alaska and The Colonel all have their share, and more, of serious issues to deal with.  I enjoyed Pudge's voice and his impressions of his new school and classmates.  He's very accepting of people even though most of his life other kids have not been very accepting of him.  The Colonel, as Pudge's roommate likes to be called, is blunt, sometimes to the point of hurtful but I felt his intentions, for the most part, were in the right place.  Alaska is a force of nature.  She's a character who seems to have this open personality, but once you catch your breath after she's blown through, you realize you know very little about her.  Lots of reading between the lines with her.

One thing I liked about the characters is they are all very unique with their individual quirks.  If you were to see them individually you wouldn't place them together as a group of friends since they don't seem to have anything truly in common.  But maybe it's the uncommonness that not only brings them together but what holds them and forms them as this tight group of friends.

The only thing I had a problem with is the ending and the unanswered questions.  I would have liked a greater resolution of the pivotal plot point.

Rating:  A-

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Review: Slammed

Colleen Hoover
Young Adult
Slammed Series/Book 1
Self Published/January 5, 2012

Following the unexpected death of her father, 18-year-old Layken is forced to be the rock for both her mother and younger brother. Outwardly, she appears resilient and tenacious, but inwardly, she's losing hope.

Enter Will Cooper: The attractive, 21-year-old new neighbor with an intriguing passion for slam poetry and a unique sense of humor. Within days of their introduction, Will and Layken form an intense emotional connection, leaving Layken with a renewed sense of hope. 

Not long after an intense, heart-stopping first date, they are slammed to the core when a shocking revelation forces their new relationship to a sudden halt. Daily interactions become impossibly painful as they struggle to find a balance between the feelings that pull them together, and the secret that keeps them apart.

Layken aka Lake, isn't happy about moving from her small Texas town to a suburb outside of Detroit, Michigan.  She's isn't happy about a lot of things but upon meeting her new next-door neighbor things brighten up for Lake.  Suddenly Michigan isn't looking so bad.  It's that relationship with Will Cooper that takes center stage in Lake's life.  Sometimes Lake acted like a typical teenager, worrying over boys, friends and school.  Other times she acted far beyond her young age showing her maturity in the face of the horrible things life threw at her.  I liked Lake but she tended to jump to conclusions a little too fast for someone whom otherwise came off as intelligent.

Will Cooper has suffered tremendous loss and now shoulders a lot of responsibility at a young age.   I adored Will - his integrity, kindness and most of all, his love for his brother Caulder.   He also loves the music of poetry.  We see how Will's experiences have molded him into a serious young man with such focus on his and Caulder's future he's afraid of losing that focus.

Layken seems to latch on to people rather quickly.  First Will, then her new BFF Eddie.  Could be because of losing her father or she might have been like this prior to his death.  I wasn't quite sure what motivated her.  Turns out Will was what she needed but they still had some hurdles to jump before they could pursue their romance.

Slammed is an emotional read dealing with serious issues that don't always resolve the way you would hope for.  I read it very quickly but did have to set it aside for a day simply because of the sadness it evoked in me.  It's not by any means a light, easy read but garners strong emotions in not only the story but the poetry.  Beautiful words conjuring beautiful and sometimes heartbreaking visions.

Rating: B

Slammed Series ~

Point of Retreat
This Girl (April 30, 3013)